- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Jurors resume deliberations Monday in the trial of two Philadelphia police officers charged with wrongly beating a man who has since died in a shooting.

Sean McKnight, 31, an officer since 2006, and Kevin Robinson, 28, an officer since 2007, are accused of having beaten Najee Rivera, 23, without provocation during a May 2013 traffic stop.

The officers said Rivera fled after running a stop sign and they mistakenly believed he was a drug courier because others had been using scooters and ATVs to move guns and drugs.

They were charged after Rivera’s girlfriend found neighborhood surveillance video that prosecutors said contradicted their allegation that Rivera attacked them. The district attorney also withdrew charges including aggravated assault and resisting arrest against Rivera.

Both officers testified that Rivera wrestled with Robinson and struggled to avoid being handcuffed by McKnight, who used his baton to subdue Rivera. McKnight said Rivera grabbed his baton, collapsing it, but he regained possession and struck Rivera on the side of the head with the butt. Rivera was treated for a broken eye-socket bone.



Prosecutors argued that the officers used excessive force and then arrested and prosecuted Rivera to try to cover up their actions. Defense attorneys argued that their clients used only the force needed to subdue Rivera and did not touch him after he stopped resisting and was handcuffed.

Rivera died in December, 15 days after he was wounded during a street fight in the Kensington neighborhood.

Jurors, who deliberated for about two hours Friday after closing arguments, asked to see a collapsible baton carried by officers that Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrock used in his closing argument. Defense attorneys objected, saying it was not the same type carried by McKnight the night Rivera was arrested. Wellbrock said the defense lawyers should have objected when he first demonstrated the device in his opening statement.

Although the jury is deliberating, Judge Charles Ehrlich scheduled a hearing Monday in which a police expert witness is to describe the differences between the baton used in court and the one McKnight carried. The judge told attorneys that if it is necessary to resolve any confusion on the part of jurors, he may have the panel return to hear that testimony.

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Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, https://www.inquirer.com

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